Wednesday 31 August 2016

Wild Bird Wednesday 214 - Double-barred Finch

During my trip around Darwin I hoped that I would be able to see photograph a number of species of finch.  Mt trip was timed to coincide with the end of the dry season, when the temperatures are a little cooler and the grass seed abundant - with the grass seed being the most important to the finches.

I soon managed to find some Double-barred Finches, Taeniopygia bichenovii, feeding in some bushes and grass.  In the past this bird was also know as the Bicheno's Finch and the Owl Faced Finch.

Like all small birds that feed in tall grass, the curse of grass blades over the eyes of the bird, or missed focus was well to the fore as I tried to get some pictures.  I did manage to get some images of what I take to be a family of (relatively?) newly fledged birds begging for food from an adult.  At first I assumed it was just a huge fight - but closer inspection showed otherwise.

These are rather small birds - about 10cm long - and like most finches they are very active.

These images (especially) the group shots are best viewed by clicking on them to see a larger version.

Now, click on the blue button to join in.  cheers  SM

Tuesday 30 August 2016

Fig Trees and Mangroves

A couple of shots from the shoreline in Darwin.  Fig tree roots growing down a rock face and some rather scenic mangroves.

You can find more shots from around the world at Our World Tuesday.

Wednesday 24 August 2016

Wild Bird Wednesday 213 - Orange-footed Scrubfowl

 The Orange-Footed Scrubfowl was the first bird I photographed during my trip to Darwin.  These large, turkey-looking birds were busy in the park just across the road from where I stayed. I was also a bit surprised to find one on the beach later the same day - a true Australian!

This bird is about 45cm long and is a member of the 'mound builders' group.  These birds scrape together  huge mounds of vegetation in which they lay their eggs.  When the eggs hatch, the young birds dig their way to the surface and rush off into the nearest cover.  They receive no care from the parents at all - they are on their own from day one!

These birds are know as Megapodius reinwaardt - which reflects their big feet and the Dutch ornithologist who named them.  This species is found along the northern edge of Australia, but can also be found on some of the islands of Indonesia.  

As you can see from these pictures, these birds could do some serious harm to your garden beds!

I hope that normal service will restored this week - so spread the word far and wide and get as many people as possible to link up.  Cheers.  SM

Tuesday 23 August 2016

Corroboree Billabong, Northern Territory

I have made it back from a great trip to the Northern Territory for 10 days - there will be lots of pictures over the next couple of weeks.

Corroboree Billabong is part of the Mary River Wetlands about 100 km east of Darwin.  The day stared, as would become par for the course on this trip, in the darkness of the pre-dawn day.   The plan was to fish for Barramundi - a wonderful sporting fish - around the lily pads and snags in the billabong.  While I managed to go that, I did not manage to put a fish in the boat - having one pull the hook close to the boat.  As I have said before, if the only thing that interests you in fishing is catching fish, you will be bored for most of the time.

There was a heavy mist at the start of the day which combined with smoke from the ever-present grass fires of the dry season produced some atmospheric light.

To preempt the question - a billabong is another name for an oxo-bow lake, the kind of lake that it formed when the loop of a meander is cut off from the rest of the river.

You can find more shots from around the world at Our World Tuesday.

Wednesday 17 August 2016

Wild Bird Wednesday 212 - Dunlin and Sanderling

The Brough of Birsay is a small island off the north-west coast of the Mainland island of Orkney - like almost all of Orkney it is very rich in archeological sites.  You can get to the island by walking over a causeway at low tide.  As we were returning from looking at the archeological sites I noticed a couple of wader dashing about in the rocks on the shore.

I got good views of one of them and knew it was a Dunlin - that black belly is a bit of a give away.  I assumed the second bird was also a dunlin, but inspection of the pictures I took show it to be a Sanderling.

One of the things that I find hard about identifying these waders in the UK is that I rarely get to see them in breeding plumage - by the time they arrive in Australia, there are in their non-breeding plumage, and generally looking less colourful.

So, here is a Sanderling (first two pictures) and a Dunlin (the rest).


When this post 'goes live' I will be deep in the Northern Territory - so I will be well and truely 'off the grid' as far as internet and such like.  So, don't get impatient if you dont hear from me for a while.  

Hope to be able to post some NT birds for next weeks WBW.

So, off you go, click the Blue Button and I'll see you when I get back!  SM

Tuesday 16 August 2016

Sea and Land

During my trip to Orkney I was struck by how green the islands were, and how you could never escape the sea.  This is what I was trying to 'talk' about in these pictures.

You can find more shots from around the world at Our World Tuesday.

Saturday 13 August 2016


Living in Australia and having a bit of a fondness for Rabbits is not always easy.  The rabbit is a plague species almost beyond measure here, up there (if not beyond) foxes and cats as despoilers of all things native and Australian.

So, it was nice to see some on more native soil when I was in Scotland - I say 'more native' as its probably that rabbits were introduced to the British Isles some time after the Romans.  No remains of rabbits have been found in Iron Age, Roman or even Anglo-Saxon sites.  The Romans kept domesticated rabbits  - presumably for pies!-  and there is (apparently) no mention of Rabbits in the Doomsday Book.  But one thing is for sure, once they escaped into the  wider countryside they did what rabbits are famous for and are now both common and an import food source for genuinely native predators.

These picture were taken on Orkney.


Wednesday 10 August 2016

Wild Bird Wednesday 211 - Emu

The Emu is the second largest bird in the world - standing up to 2m tall and weighing in at 35 to 40 kg they are an impressive bird to meet in the wild. They are flightless and at times can be rather shy.

These birds were feeding at a location at Wilsons Promontory know to us (and probably almost no-one else) as "Icon Field", due to it tendency to hold wildlife icons such as Emus, Wombats and Kangaroos.  It is intact an area that was once an airfield.  We also stop there on our Prom trips.

The Emu - Dromaius novaehollandiae - is common enough in many areas of Australia.  There were once two other species (or maybe races) of Emu in Australia, one in Tasmania and one on Kangaroo Island, but both are now extinct for predictable reasons.

Emus are fast runners and their scientific name means 'New-Holland Racer' - which actually makes sense.

The day after this post 'goes live' I will be heading off to the Northern Territory for just over a week - so I will be well and truely 'off the grid' as far as internet and such like.  So, don't get impatient if you dont hear from me for a while.  (WBW next week will still be there, courtesy of the 'Schedule' function!) 

So, off you go, click the Blue Button and I'll see you when I get back!  SM

Tuesday 9 August 2016

St. Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney

This rather wonderful redstone building dominates the heart of Kirkwall, the capital of Orkney.  The building of the Cathedral was started in 1137 and continued on and off for 300 years.  Those dates and numbers are rather impressive I have to say.

Rather than copy material from a well known on line encyclopaedia, you can find the history of this Cathedral here.

When I was in Orkney there were a series of events to commemorate the centenary of the Battle of Jutland in WW1.  This battle, which resulted in the death of over 9000 men, was the last time that large fleets of battleships ever fought a battle.

There was a sculpture - called Weeping Window - installed next to the main entrance to the Cathedral.  The ceramic poppies used in the sculpture were some of the nearly 900,000 that were used in a similar way at the Tower of London in a commemoration to the British or Colonial serviceman who died in the First  World War.  Those number are as depressing as the date are impressive.

You can find more shots from around the world at Our World Tuesday.